Driven by fierce determination, fitness industry pioneer Augie Nieto, who was diagnosed in 2005 with Lou Gehrig’s disease, is working out again – even though he uses a wheelchair, relies on a breathing machine and is unable to speak.
The chairman of the board of Octane Fitness, LLC since 2005, Nieto, 55, is the founder of Life Fitness, a global fitness equipment company that he sold to Brunswick Corporation in 1997.
Since his diagnosis, (patients have a typical life expectancy of three to five years), Nieto founded Augie’s Quest, a nonprofit foundation that is part of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, to raise money for ALS treatment research with the goal of finding a cure. To date, Augie’s Quest has generated $37 million. Nieto, with his wife Lynne, serve as co-chairs of MDA’s ALS division. In this time, Nieto has written two books: Augie’s Quest and Reciprocity.
“Augie’s ambitions have always been truly limitless, from the first days of the original Lifecyle to the day he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease,” says Chris Clawson, president of Life Fitness. “It was after his diagnosis that the most spectacular Augie came to be, and we’re proud to support him in this moment.”
Never Say Never
In 2007, Nieto asked Octane Fitness for a special motorized xRide seated elliptical as a way to maintain his cardiovascular fitness. But as Nieto’s condition worsened, he was unable to ride after six months, so the machine was disassembled at his request.
However, Nieto’s personal fight against this paralyzing and fatal disease has been fueled by a bold refusal to quit, tremendous support from his family and friends, and multiple treatment regimens. In 2012, he began training on a custom-made Life Fitness leg press machine and now performs three sets of 20 reps at 120 pounds every other day.
Octane went back to work, at Nieto’s request, on another custom xRide, which features a motor to move the leg and arm pedals to get him started. But Nieto can overpower the motor and drive the pedals himself, which he demonstrated during a 20-minute workout on March 20 in front of a large, emotional crowd at Octane’s exhibit booth at the IHRSA Annual Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas.
“We have benefitted so much as a company and personally from Augie’s leadership and friendship,” says Tim Porth, executive vice president of product development and marketing at Octane Fitness. “Obviously, we are passionate about helping him recover and will do whatever it takes.”
With the leg press and xRide now at Nieto’s home in California, his current mission is to exercise regularly in order to walk at the 2014 IHRSA show, March 12-15 at the San Diego Convention Center.
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